Requiem para un poder insomne / Jesús Sanoja Hernández

Requiem for an Insomniac Power

Shortly after the decade of the 1950s opened and not long before it closed, we saw the emergence of two fundamental poetry collections, as much for the rigor of their language as for their spirit of modernity. Elena y los elementos, by Juan Sánchez Peláez, and Los cuadernos del destierro, by Rafael Cadenas, were affiliated, perhaps for distancing themselves from the poetic modes of the time, with the genealogy of Ramos Sucre. But in fact Sánchez Peláez was coming from his Chilean experiences and his devotion to surrealism and Cadenas from a vast reflection on the poetic task, a voracious reader like the man from La torre de Timón, and what was singular in them, as with the latter, consisted in having jumped the barricade.

Since 1945, the poet Carlos Augusto León, an old disciple of Ramos Sucre, had highlighted, in his essay Las piedras mágicas, the importance of his work, and even Mario Briceño Iragorry, in the new edition of Lecturas venezolanas (a volume with a cover that looked like a Mantilla elementary school book and was quite conservative in its selection) had included “Geórgica,” defining Ramos Sucre’s poetry as excessively learned: “He has been classified as nebulous because of the originality of his diction and because of the motives of his writings.”

The decade of the 50s meant a slow but growing revision of the poetics of the Cumaná native, at a time when the popular poet par excellence was his countryman Andrés Eloy Blanco. Articles by José Ramón Medina (who would eventually write the prologue for his Obra completa, volume 73 of Biblioteca Ayacucho) and by the young writers Juan Calzadilla and Juan Angel Mogollón, enthusiastic conversations by others like Adriano González León and Rafael José Muñoz, and lastly, the irruption of the literary group Sardio, where he was esteemed as a master, and critics like Guillermo Sucre, José Balza and Eugenio Montejo soon afterward, consolidated the prestige of Ramos Sucre, at the same time as that of Guillermo Meneses and, later on, Julio Garmendia in fiction.

The belief exists, denied by the testimonies of newspapers in the 20s, that Ramos Sucre lived cloistered in his tower. The truth is Trizas de papel was published, poem by poem, in a newspaper of the era, and the same occurred, though not in its entirety, with La torre de Timón. As for “Granizada,” it appeared successively in Elite. Ramos Sucre likewise collaborated with the magazine that served as a banner for the Generation of 28 (válvula) and, according to a reference by Jóvito Villalba, he was the center of attraction in Plaza Bolívar, when he would leave his office at the Consulate, for the students who imbibed from him knowledge that was inaccessible by any other means. Against popular belief, he even had a few imitators, not always blessed in the poetic adventure.

The month of June (and also July) of 1930 demonstrated that he was read more than was imagined, although not everyone understood the depths of his visions, with the exception of Pedro Sotillo, Fernando Paz Castillo, the strange Gabriel Espinoza and, of course, Enrique Bernardo Núñez, in Panama at the time, who would produce the extraordinary La galera de Tiberio. The insomniac’s suicide, predicted by what was written in his last letters, was reflected –according to Luis Beltrán Guerrero– by the poet of the Viernes group, Otto De Sola, in his “Oda a José Antonio Ramos Sucre”: “That revolver in Geneva was not evil.”

The poetry of Ramos Sucre has been studied a great deal since the 60s. Writers such as Francisco Pérez Perdomo, who composed a prologue for one of his editions, and Angel Rama, who landed in Venezuela in the 70s and who also researched Rufino Blanco-Fombona, have analyzed his inner and outer world, just as José Ramón Medina and Fernando Paz Castillo, and Eugenio Montejo, Elena Vera, Pérez Huggins, Oswaldo Larrazábal, Gustavo Luis Carrera y Pedro Beroes have done.

Tomás Eloy Martínez’s vision is notable and the analytical incursions of Salvador Tenreiro are of the highest order and, more recently, those of Víctor Bravo, who classifies his work “as a poetics of evil and pain,” referring to Leopardi and giving equal weight to “evil and the aesthetics of modernity,” Baudelaire at the vanguard.

When his remains arrived in La Guaira, I was seeing the light of this world. An existential paradox, that unites my condition of pure and simple mortal, with an immortal dead man. Unfortunately, I have no memory of that day.

{ Jesús Sanoja Hernández, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 6 December 1998 }

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